Reader Question of the Week: How Do I Boost Intimacy with my Unbelieving Husband?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license:

Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a reader, who longs for greater intimacy with her unbelieving husband:

I want to feel really intimate with my husband. He’s a great guy, and I love him very much. But he isn’t a Christian, and I feel like I can’t share the most important part of me. How can I stay intimate with him when I’m always reminded that we have less than the ideal?

Thanks, everybody!

What do you think?  How can she boost her intimacy with her husband?


A Survey Plea

Now, a special request... A reader, who is working on her Ph.D.  needs help with some research she’s doing. She says:

Participate in a survey on couples and alcohol use and enter to win a raffle!

  • Are you and your spouse legally married and at least 18 years of age?
  • Do you or your partner currently consume alcoholic beverages at least once a month?
  • Is alcohol use an area of disagreement in your marriage?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you and your spouse are eligible to participate in a research survey regarding the relationship between your marriage and your alcohol-related help seeking behaviors. When you both complete the survey, you will each be entered into a raffle for one of four $50 gift cards!

The survey will take each participant approximately 20 minutes, and survey responses will be anonymous.

This study has been approved by the Clark Committee for the Rights of Human Participants in Research and Training Programs (IRB). Any questions about human rights issues should be directed to the IRB Chair, Dr. James P. Elliott, 508-793-7152, The study is being conducted by C.J. Fleming, M.A. and James Cordova, Ph.D. in the Psychology Department at Clark University. Please feel free to contact the researcher ( ) or the research supervisor ( ) with any questions or concerns.

Thanks, ladies! Now chime in on our question: how can she boost intimacy with her husband?

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  1. ButterflyWings says:

    Hi, when I read this I was immediately called to answer your statement that your marriage is less than ideal.

    I’ll be blunt – ALL marriages are less than ideal. We are human, we’re all far from perfect. No one, not even two christians, have “ideal marriages”.

    Instead of focussing on what your marriage is missing, try to focus on the good things your marriage does have.

    • happywife says:

      I completely agree. No marriage is ideal. Every husband and every wife falls short of perfection and short of his/her spouses idea of perfection. When we focus on those faults, we do struggle with intimacy. Focus on your husbands positive qualities. Build him up with your words. Leave notes for him telling him things you love about him. When negative thoughts come, take those thoughts captive and replace them with positive thoughts. Keep a list of things you love about your husband and read that over when you’re discouraged. He may not be a believer now, but God can use your sacrificial, unconditional love to reach his heart.
      Try a little experiment (I think Shelia mentioned this a couple weeks ago). Aim to make love at least every 72 hours for the next month. Respond positively to his advances, as well as initiate lovemaking yourself. See if you just don’t have a different attitude toward your husband at the end of a month of frequent sex.

    • Yes yes and yes! I was gong to say the exact same thing. Even marriages where both spouses are believers have their challenges and are less than ideal. :-) Kick that thought out of your mind, girl! What are the things that you DO have in common? What are the hobbies or activities or relaxing things you enjoy together? Start there. Have fun together. Ask the Lord to show you how He wants you to love your husband. Let your faith be something that you use to bring you closer to your husband. Don’t let it become a wedge between you.
      Melissa recently posted…Trauma at the Hand of FictionMy Profile

  2. I completely agree with ButterflyWings. There are NO perfect marriages. And changing my focus has had a real impact on my spiritually unequal marriage.
    But I also understand what the reader was implying. Even the most IMperfect Christ-centered marriages have something that a spiritually unequal marriage cannot. I know how lonely and heart-breaking it is to not be able to share the most important aspect of your life with the one you love.

    I think the best way to have spiritual intimacy is to intercede for him in prayer.
    Let him see Christ in you, but dont nag him with words or intimidate him with spiritual things.
    Let GOD fill the emptiness inside of you.
    Try to connect with him on a non-spiritual level. Develop other forms of intimacy.
    Praise God for every good thing in your marriage. Don’t grow weary in doing good, don’t give up on him, and dont stop praying (or praising!).

    Hope this helps? I’m still trying to figure it all out too. :)

    • ButterflyWings says:

      It’s difficult in any marriage where something important isn’t shared. My first husband called himself a christian but after we got married he stopped going to church, he took up immoral interests and wouldn’t have anything to do with anything spiritual (he believed God exists but hated God rather than following because of a series of bad even he went through).

      It is very painful when you can’t share something important to you with your spouse (even having a spouse that says they are a christian doesn’t mean your faith is shared).

      But you can still make things good. Show your husband the love of Christ and hopefully by your example, it will lead him to Christ too.

  3. I understand what the reader is going through because my husband isn’t a Christian. We’ve been married almost 22 years and I’ve struggled with the same thoughts now and again. I wonder if the reader also struggles with the thought, “you married outside of God’s will”. Well a dear pastor friend cleared this up for me one time by saying that in God’s sovereignty, He could have prevented us from marrying but for reasons only known to Him, He allowed it. Once we were joined together, our marriage was/is blessed by God.

    Although we’ve had many, many discussions about God, for now He is still blind. However, he is supportive of me and my faith and I am respectful of his opinions (without changing or softening mine). Ultimately, it is God who will open his eyes to see the truth; my responsibility is to love him and support him.

    I encourage the reader to continue to love and respect her husband; don’t focus on the negative (because you can’t change it…God does the changing), and ask God to show you how to minister love to him.

    Most importantly when those thoughts come, take them to your Heavenly Father and He will quiet your heart.

    • He could have prevented us from marrying but for reasons only known to Him, He allowed it.

      We are commanded not to become unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), but just like all of the other rules, we tend to ignore this one, too.

      Given the available info, though, we don’t know the letter writer’s exact circumstances, i.e. was she a Christian before marriage or after? Not that it matters since they are already married. No mulligans. 😉

  4. My husband wasn’t a Christian when we got married. We were 19, I was pregnant and he was in his second year of university. I understand the feeling of less than ideal. We received some crazy advice mostly from our church who seemed intent on “hammering home” that we weren’t ideal…
    Nearly 12 years 3 kids later, I’m thankful that my dear hubby came to the Lord in his own time, in God’s time. Before he was saved, I often thought if I just had the right argument, I would convince him, and win him over. It seems silly now. How arrogant of me to think that! I agree with what others have said: We as wives are called to love our husbands, God is the one to change your husband’s heart.
    To encourage intimacy, I would work on nurturing your friendship. What fun things did you do when you were dating? I’m trying to do some of those things again with my husband. We went for lots of walks, skating, movies. Just have some fun together! Blessings to you as you endeavor to strengthen your marriage!

  5. Every marriage is less than ideal.

    Marriage isn’t a fairy tale.

    Get over it.

    Does he support you in your faith? Does he encourage you to go to church? Does he listen to you talk about the day’s sermon. Is he generally good-natured about your pursuit of your faith? If so, then pray for him and leave it alone. You can’t control him or force him into making a statement of faith, so leave that part in God’s hands.

    Now, start focusing on what you can do to make your marriage better.

    Be his most joyful and loyal friend; his willing, enthusiastic and adventurous lover; and his biggest fan. Most importantly, believe in him.

    Do things together, whether it is grocery shopping, taking a walk after dinner, fishing, camping, or jumping out of airplanes.

    Flirt with each other. Pursue each other. Love each other. Have fun with each other. Do life with each other.

    Rinse and repeat for the next 50 years and your life together will be your greatest treasure.

    • Thank you Mark!!! It is so awesome to have the husband’s perspective on things!! We tend to get narrow minded in thinking that us women know how to solve things. Thank you!!

  6. Carolyn Dahl says:

    God loved us while we were less than ideal (yet sinners), so I figure if God was able to love me when I was less than perfect (far, far less) then I should be doing the same for others, including my unbelieving husband.

    Paul instructs us to honor our husbands and submit to them in Christ whether they are believers or not. How can we do this? I always imagine that if I had the perfect husband (Jesus), what kind of wife would I be toward Him? I then try my best to do the things I would do for Jesus for my husband.

  7. As yourself, I’m working on improving my sexual intimacy. We’ve been married for 13 years and I just want to take our relationship and intimacy to a higher level. I’ve committed to reading about sex and intimacy from a Christian point of view. I believe that education and then action are the keys to a fulfilling sexual life.

    I can’t say I understand what it means to be married to an unbeliever, but he is your husband and the Bible tells us all to engage in sexual intimacy unless prayer and fasting is involved, (1 Corinthians 7). Maybe your willingness to give your husband your heart and your body could soften his heart and ultimately lead him to Christ.

    Sex demonstrates to your husband that you love him. If you love him, show him and give him your all!
    Tiffany Godfrey recently posted…Can You Learn About Marriage And Communication from A Beach Ball?My Profile

  8. Hey, I just had to comment. I must say that most of the commenters on this post seem a little insensitive and inexperienced in this subject. It’s so easy for Christians to say, oh, just pray about it, deal with it, and love him anyway….and yes that is true…but come on…I think this lady wants something more tangible and maybe some understanding from commenters here than just the “Christian answer” that is so easily offered up.

    So, here is my two-cents. This is coming from someone who has gone through 10 years of it and come out on the other side. I will preface my testimony by first saying that I married a great man! Very selfless, caring, supportive, great provider, loving, funny, etc etc. My husband and I were married 7 months, then he went to Iraq to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He came back about 6 months later a changed man…hardened heart, angry with God, and wanted NOTHING to do with God, Church, or anything else related. He refused counseling….so there started the downward spiral. My expectations were swiftly unmet and I became unhappy. I married this man thinking that we would be involved in church together, raise our children biblically together and be able to connect spiritually, and that stopped very abruptly. Of course I may have had unrealistic expectations going into it…but most all newlyweds do.

    So anyway, over the course of the next 3 years we had 2 kids and I became the spiritual leader of my home. I hated it! I was angry…..and this is where my sin came in. I became bitter. I would basically preach at him and nag at him. I stopped being intimate with him. (2 reasons, because we had 2 small children and I was mad at him for being the way he was and our lack of spiritual connection). Distrust built up in our marriage because of these things…resentement on both sides…and even more resistance toward God, on my husband’s side. Not only that, but my relationship with God suffered because of it. (i was not much of a spiritual leader, i can tell you that)….And if you read these things again….it basically went downhill because of my attitude. Had I got my attitude in check, those years would’ve been a little easier. Had I relied on God and not my own useless and vain ‘preaching’, maybe my husband would’ve been able to see what is so great about being a Christian. But I believe that God saw the destructive nature in my attitude and sent a sweet Christian lady to mentor me. Because of Him working in my life and that lady’s willingness to pour in to me, I was able to turn my focus off of my husband’s lack of spirituality and focus on what needed to be changed in my own heart and mind. It was at that point I was able to truly love my husband and serve him the way God called me to.

    And now that my husband and I will be married 11 years this July….It was just last January that he came to Christ. Now our marriage still isn’t perfect…but it is changed…And yes, I would say that it has made a difference in our intimate life, because as women we are wooed emotionally, mentally….and so when I connect with my husband on a spiritual level it has added another element that he can ‘woo’ me. But please hear me, it was not an overnight change. I believe a lot of believers preach that once you become saved that it’s a quick 180….but it’s not….this was 30 years of habbits and sins and attitudes needing to be broken and turned to God. So my husband still deals with and struggles with sins…but the main difference is in his attitude and the fact that he puts effort into becoming a new creature in Christ. It is slow, and I still get a little impatient with him sometimes but God has equipped me with the ability and the desire to love my husband unconditionally – with respect, the way God expects.

    So, I hope you know that it is not a quick fix to your intimate life, and had I loved my husband the way God called me to, then my husband would’ve most likely came to Christ much sooner. Granted this is not everyone’s story….but once God got a hold of me and I actually started listening, I was able to love my husband the way he needed to be loved long before he came to Christ. I believe that was the key!

    And after saying this, I wonder if anyone close to you knows your situation. I tried to hide it for years, from my family, friends, everyone, and so I isolated myself. God brought someone into my life that I could share these things safely and it was at that point He started healing me. I didn’t want anyone to think badly of my husband, because despite the lack of spirituality, he was a great man and a great husband. Please don’t isolate yourself. It is lonely at times, but God is with you. Find a lady that is a mature Christian, that you can talk to and who can keep you accountable for your attitudes. I am praying for you and for your husband!

  9. As someone who walked through this I’d like to try my hand at some encouragement also.

    When we were married we were both non-believers, 4 years into our marriage the Lord called me and I became a disciple of Christ. It was at this point that my husband revealed to me that he’d been married before and the reason he left her was, “because she became a Bible-thumper.”

    Woooohooooo … (slightly tongue-in-cheek) … what a ride it was. Married 4 years, 14 years unequally yoked, now on the other side of it, it’s been 5 years since my man became a believer! I can unequivocally tell you that it DOESN’T get easier (as I mistakenly believed) I believed that him being born-again would magically heal and change everything that was wrong with him (in that last phrase ‘…everything that was wrong with him’ you’ll see part of the problem) … I thought it would change him and somehow he would receive a Holy-spirit supercharged labotamy; slightly unrealistic huh.

    In fact, (and this is probably going to go against a lot of the religious teaching in the church, but that’s ok b/c this is what I personally experienced) there wasn’t that much of a change in him. Yes, he was not walking in darkeness anymore, and does believe now. But as far as any problems that were in our marriage dynamic that caused conflict – those issues still need to be worked through and healed; it takes time.

    I agree with the poster just before me – I got tired of everyone telling me, “Oh we’ll pray and get your husband saved.” Or, “you need to do more of this or more of that.” I got so tired of the war that raged that I tried to get my husband to leave! Finally, when all was said and done, I tried to commit suicide; I do know how dark and hopeless it can feel *hugz to you sister*

    God knows and sees your struggle. You are in a war, don’t forget that and the thing that Satan wants is division. The main thing that helped me was seeing those two truths. It lead me to ultimately: 1) seek unity. Yes, even though you are married to an unbeliever – light IS stronger than darkness. 2) Satan comes at you THROUGH your husband; through his weaknesses. 3) accept that Satan is your enemy not hubby; got to war against Satan FOR your man.

    My husband and I had intimacy issues (as most marriages do from time to time) this didn’t change just because he ‘got saved.’ He was after all, still a man – with all his ‘manliness’ traits!
    Robyn Gibson recently posted…Enough to spareMy Profile

    • Thank you for that, Robyn. I’m sure that will help encourage a lot of women. You’re so right–becoming a Christian does not solve all of our problems at all. I’m so glad that your husband does believe now, though!

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